Leaving Oakland…for London?
Maximising markets, nurturing profits, exploiting additional revenue streams – the NFL and its major stakeholders aren’t shrinking violets when it comes to exploiting cities and fans that they pertain to love, franchise owners will pit cities against each other for the honour of ‘permanently’ hosting their franchise. Unlike British sport where the major sporting organisations are somewhat conservative, perhaps almost secretive, about its future plans and aspirations; in some cases – such as Arsenal Football Club – the ownership is so convoluted that fans and the media alike cannot be sure who actually makes the final decisions. As Arsene Wenger, the Premier League’s longest serving managers leadership is in doubt there is still no clear indication from the powers that be as to what the future holds for the manager and, of course, the fans.
However, in typical American fashion NFL owners are not quite so tentative, quite ballsy and open with their bullish demands for new stadia investment and money spinning incentives. On both sides of the Atlantic the owners unquestionably have a level of social responsibility to their established customer (or fan) base; I appreciate that British football (or Soccer) clubs were established predominately over one hundred years ago – many of them formed from church groups (Everton FC) or working sports clubs (Manchester United) they have their roots deeply invested in the local social and economic fabric of the area.
NFL franchises have always had a lot more flexibility in moving cities when they are not receiving the level of financial investment required to ensure that dollar worth of every seat available is maximised. The controversial and quite rapid moves of both the Charger and Raider franchise signifies a worryingly new trend amongst the owners and the regulation body that governs them.
The NFL has been fairly predictable regarding the markets that had been identified for future exploitation to support and ensure the continual growth and profit margins for its owners, both a Las Vegas franchise and a re-introduction into Los Angeles area were ‘plots’ scheduled in previous senior NFL meetings. And they are surely ‘plots’ as without an increase of franchises two or more teams would have to move away from an established customer base. Predictably both initiatives have now come into fruition – despite the desperate pleas of the fans that will inevitable be left behind.
Economics 101, supply versus demand and the NFL have moved themselves into an unenviable position that cities without a franchise are prepared to beg steal and whore itself to have a franchise to call their own. This often comes at great expense to the local population as heavy financial levys are enforced against the local communities – a large part of that demographic will probably never be able to afford the alleviated seat prices to watch the franchise play.
The Miami Dolphins stood as lonely dissenters to the recent Raiders move. But it just doesn’t matter – because the NFL justifies it’s actions by embracing a new set of passionate fans that have been starved of the NFL product. There are always a healthy new group of fans that want to passionately embrace a new franchise, belong to the NFL ‘family’, to engage and care about Thursday Night football. They are happy to purchase a new franchise jersey or branded tin opener, hell – even boo the commissioner on the opening night of the draft.
Pictures of ‘Raider’ fans in Las Vegas have been splashed all over various media outlets, there overbearing joyful boisterousness on show for all to see. Not given half the attention though are the numerous fans in Oakland (Oakland have always profited from various city moves in the past) that have invested time, money and tradition (passing the passion of supporting the Raiders on to future generations) that have been hoodwinked by the NFL relentless pursuit of profitability. Ultimately the demand for a franchise and for any glory a franchise can yield on the field rides rough shot of average Joe fans.
We all remember the fallout from Art Modell’s transplant of the Browns franchise to Baltimore and its promise of a shiny new stadium. The announcement was poorly timed, mid-way through the season, the result was that Cleveland supporters felt betrayed by the individuals that owned the rights to the franchise. Municipal Stadium fell quiet and half empty – a slow painful death for a once honourable and highly thought of franchise followed. The Raiders are not planning to move lock stock and barrel for another two seasons, history predicts, in the now a bleak and uncomfortable future for the owner Mark Davis and just about everybody else attached to the franchise.
This is London calling! An answer to the predicament would be temporally relocate the Las Vegas Raiders to London. Surely offering the Las Vegas a home from home would fulfil two major hurdles? Mr Davis and co will have a guan teed ticket income and the NFL can almost avoid the endless bad press and hide behind the incredible achievement of becoming the first major American sport to establish itself on foreign soil. In previous articles, I’ve discussed the passion of UK supporters and the Raiders franchise has a faithful and passionate following around the world. I’m certain that both the NFL and franchise would leap at the chance to cement itself in the UK, by committing to a more substantial commitment the Raiders would be in pole position to grasp hold of future American Football supporters.
It would be a brilliant act of product marketing for both the Raiders and the NFL, perhaps by using the American Football purpose built new Tottenham Hotspur stadium (The very expensive naming rights to be sold to the highest bidder very soon) in the heart of London, Las Vegas Raiders could base themselves for 4-6 games per season for two years – this would be a final test of logistics, player happiness and profitability for finally establishing a permanent NFL franchise outside of America.